"Back offices need to embrace automation"

August 11, 2016


If you’re reading this, the chances are that you are in some way involved in all things operational within energy trading – hooray for you, it’s a great industry and a great role!


Not to say it’s without its challenges – this is precisely why ETOT exists.


And this is precisely why we enlist the help of speakers such as Gavin Ferguson, Head of Change at Centrica.


Over his 35+ year tenure, he has certainly seen a paradigm shift or two and, ahead of his talk at ETOT this year, we asked him a few questions…


You are Head of Change? With a background in Back Office?


I am Head of Regulatory Change. Last year, I led the wider change team and before that I was Head of Back Office for 14 years… and before that, 15 years of IT!


In all, I’ve been at British Gas/Centrica for 36 years.


How did you make the transition from Head of BO to Head of Regulatory Change?


The back office is the place in which the day-to-day regulatory reporting takes place. Therefore, for REMIT and EMIR transactional reporting and so on I was already very involved, I moved into a role where I am creating new processes for the back office.


Do you think this role will become more common in today’s climate?


The amount of work we have been doing on regulation in the last few years has been growing and it certainly isn’t going away. One of the benefits I have personally is that I know people from all around the company and so for me communicating with them all is really easy.


What makes an efficient Back Office in your opinion?


In most Back Offices, the volumes have gone up greatly – the number of trades, the number of counterparties. And the complexity of trade is increasing so I feel that back offices need to embrace automation so that they can focus their manual effort on the new and complex items which are difficult to automate. In time, those settle down and can be automated so then you can move your manual work to focus on the new complex items which are difficult to automate. So it’s a continuous cycle.


Could you give us a preview of your session at ETOT “What are the current factors influencing the clearing landscape”?


The direction I would come from is once again all about regulation and how regulation is changing the way in which companies do business and the effect of clearing it on. MiFID II coming along – I think by the time ETOT takes place things will be “clearer” in terms of what of what MiFID II means and how much more business may go through exchanges.


"Systems need people who understand them. If you were to run an automated process with no one around who understands what it does, you are likely to have issues."


With an environment which places more and more emphasis on automation, what role does the human play in relation to before largely?


A huge one.


Systems need people who understand them. If you were to run an automated process with no one around who understands what it does, you are likely to have issues.


As the environment around that system changes the system itself has to be changed and if no one is around to do anything about it you soon feel the effect.


The ability of people to be able to specify what it is they really need from systems rather than just computerise a manual process is very important. Some automation is still just replacing a manual process and it doesn’t follow that that’s optimal.


Systems are helpful but it’s the people that count.




What do you think?


Do you have any experiences of what worked well for an efficient Back Office dept.?


Do you have any stories about automation and how it benefited things?


Let us know!


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